One tale of triumphant inheritance gave way to another Tuesday afternoon, as The Lion King yielded the stage of the Disney Theater to Arthur Sulzberger Jr.’s State of The New York Times presentation. Bongo drums, a witness reported, were faintly visible in the wings as Mr. Sulzberger-sans necktie, in a navy suit and blue shirt-delivered a cheerful (if not sunshiny) account of the company’s condition.
Local circulation? Off, thanks to marketing cuts. Stock price? Down and not rising. Expenses? Still greater than revenues.
“I wish I could see relief in sight,” Mr. Sulzberger said.
Mr. Sulzberger also said that he is “bitterly disappointed” by the paper’s lack of diversity, a condition he has pledged to remedy.
But Mr. Sulzberger, in his second such meeting of the day, happily PowerPointed his way through photographs of the paper’s award-winning writers and editors, rattling off Polk and Pulitzer winners, according to witnesses. He noted that the paper had won a prize for high-quality color printing.
The publisher also praised reporter Kurt Eichenwald’s new Enron book, Conspiracy of Fools, saying it “reads like a thriller.” (In testimony to the paper’s enthusiasm for Mr. Eichenwald’s work, the Sunday business section is planning to run a huge excerpt this coming weekend.)
And Mr. Sulzberger reminded everyone that the paper’s Times Square headquarters had been sold off, in anticipation of its 2007 move to an Eighth Avenue skyscraper. “We’re renters now,” Mr. Sulzberger said. “So feel free to trash the place.”
The publisher quickly added that he was kidding.
Mr. Sulzberger’s presentation, witnesses said, was studded with reporter-befuddling bits of business-speak about how “content remains the driver.” The key for The Times, Mr. Sulzberger said, is “managing the tension between authenticity and innovation.” The paper, he said, needs to find a “third way” (way No. 1 being the “current way”; way No. 2, the “perfect way”).
But the publisher kept the zingers coming. While showing a chart comparing his paper’s tiny bulk sales to those of hotel-doorknob fixture USA Today, Mr. Sulzberger scoffed at that paper’s “Never Gray” advertising slogan. “Should be ‘Never Read,'” he said.
Certain innovations couldn’t wait for Mr. Sulzberger to unveil them. Despite the publisher’s enthusiasm for PowerPoint, The Times announced earlier in the week that Circuits would be eliminated as a weekly stand-alone section. In its place, the paper plans to launch a fashion-and-service-heavysection it described in an announcement as a “mid-week cousin of the SundayStyles section.”
Kinship, however, only goes so far: Thursday’s Sunday Styles will not feature midweek weddings,a Times spokes-person wrote in an e-mail.
In an internal memo announcing the changes, executive editor Bill Keller glossed Circuits’ demise as a symptom of its success. “Like the technology industry itself, which is no longer concentrated in a little enclave in Silicon Valley, the coverage has already been migrating into the mainstream, including the front page,” Mr. Keller wrote.
Speaking of the spread of technology, one attendee at Tuesday’s afternoon session asked Mr. Sulzberger why The Times had just spent a reported $410 million to buy About.com-a company, the staffer added, which does what The Times does, only less well.
Mr. Sulzberger replied with an anecdote about using About.com to look up rock climbing, his own “passion.” It wasn’t the content that had stirred him, he said, but the advertisements the Web site was able to serve up along with it. “[I] found things I didn’t even know I wanted,” Mr. Sulzberger said.
In other new business, Mr. Sulzberger said that the paper aims to announce a successor to public editor Daniel Okrent, whose 18-month term is expiring, by the end of the month. And he announced that the paper will be adding a third page to the editorial/Op-Ed package on Sundays.
What will be in it?
“Not a chance I’m going to answer that,” Mr. Sulzberger told the audience. “Stay tuned.”
The last time The Wall Street Journal published an edition on weekends, the weekend hardly existed: The New York Stock Exchange ran six days a week, and so did The Journal. When the Exchange stopped Saturday trading in 1953, The Journal stopped publishing on Saturdays.
Come September, The Journal plans to reintroduce a Saturday paper. Unless the five-day work week is abolished over the summer, the paper will need to find a new way to get to readers who customarily receive the paper at work.
According to company figures, one-third of Journal delivery subscribers get the paper away from home. That far exceeds the 17 percent of Financial Times readers who get office delivery. The FT has offered split weekend delivery since 1998.
Given The Journal’s delivery circulation of 1.5 million, according to its most recent Audit Bureau of Circulations statement, there will be some 500,000 customers to track down over the weekend.
Who better to track down those readers than the readers themselves? Since January, The Journal has been running house ads announcing the upcoming weekend paper and seeking to round up the necessary information: “Saturday Delivery Alert! … Don’t Wait! If you have a different address for Saturday delivery, please tell us now.”
A spokesperson for Dow Jones, The Journal’s parent company, declined to comment on the specifics of the Saturday-delivery preparations, saying only that a final plan should be in place a month from now.
The weekend edition itself, like the delivery planning, is still taking shape. The edition, announced this past September, is meant in part to expand on the paper’s venture into lifestyle coverage that began in 1998 with the launch of the Weekend Journal section. In 2002, that was joined by the three-times-a-week Personal Journal. The lifestyle sections have been a magnet for consumer advertising; according to statistics provided by The Journal in the announcement for the Saturday edition, Personal Journal ad revenue rose nearly 60 percent last year, and Weekend Journal ad revenue has grown 17 percent annually since the section debuted.
Saturday’s Journal will include Friday’s news. It will also include a section called Pursuits, which will take on fashion, fitness and restaurant coverage. Tom Weber, the former deputy editor of the Weekend Journal, was named Pursuits editor in January.
The Adam Moss–ification of New York magazine continues apace. The latest addition to the masthead is New Republic senior editor Ryan Lizza, who is joining New York as a contributing editor. Mr. Lizza, 30, currently covers the White House for The New Republic, and when reached at his desk in Washington, he said he would be staying at his full-time TNR post while he pens upward of six feature stories for New York.
“I still have a full-time job at TNR; hopefully I’ll be able to make that work. It shouldn’t be too hard,” Mr. Lizza said in a phone conversation.
“What I’m doing at TNR is writing relatively frequent short pieces about the Bush administration. To the extent I’ll do political stuff for [ New York], it will have to have a unique New York angle. There won’t be pieces I’d pitch at TNR that would have a New York angle.”
Mr. Lizza, a New York native who grew up on Long Island, has already written for Mr. Moss. Last year, he wrote two pieces for New York, the most recent, in June, detailing the Bush administration’s failure to deliver on its financial promises to the city. His contributing-editor contract has yet to be finalized, and Mr. Lizza said the specifics about dollar amounts and word counts were still being determined. According to sources, prior to the New York magazine deal, Mr. Lizza recently turned down an offer from Slate to be their chief political correspondent. Mr. Lizza confirmed his decision to remain in the print world. He said New York hasn’t asked him to cover politics specifically, and about half of his pieces will have a political peg.
“I’m interested in writing profiles to covering a murder trial in New York. I’m excited to write any kind of general-feature piece they feel is good for me,” he said, adding that he’ll still have Washington on his radar.
“I hope there will be some Hillary stuff to cover, and some Schumer stuff too. You know, there will be a million Hillary angles to cover if she runs for President. I’d like to take a bite out of that,” he said.
“What we looked for first off in Ryan is that he’s a really good writer,” New York editorial director Hugo Lindgren said. “Ryan has an amazing command over what he’s writing about. When you’re in the magazine business, that’s what you’re looking for.”
It also appears magazine editors are looking for young TNR scribes, whose bylines pepper many high-rung national glossies. Indeed, TNR could be considered the media’s “serious journalism” farm team. At New York, Mr. Lizza joins fellow TNR senior editor Franklin Foer, 30, who’s been a contributing editor there since spring 2004. TNR senior editor Michael Crowley’s byline popped up atop a feature on homeland security in the January GQ. This winter, The New York Times Magazine has run pieces by TNR senior editors Jason Zengerle and Jonathan Cohn, as well as legal-affairs editor Jeffrey Rosen.
It seems to be a win-win situation. TNR staffers get national exposure, while general-interest magazines benefit from the patina of beltway wonkiness. In 2003’s Shattered Glass, Hayden Christensen dramatized TNR’s media cachet, memorably recounting Stephen Glass’ courtship by magazine editors. Last May, Mr. Lizza was the lead in a 1,100-word piece by Howard Kurtz in The Washington Post profiling the newest crop of young D.C. political reporters. But exposure aside, all this extracurricular writing has its financial rewards-especially for the hard-beset New Republic crowd.
“I wouldn’t say [money] is not a reason [to freelance],” Mr. Lizza said.
In the March 25 issue of Rolling Stone, the Jann Wenner–helmed magazine will debut a pop-culture news section. Well, the name isn’t new.
The two-page section will be called “Incoming,” a title that has appeared in the magazine’s front of the book since 2002. When it debuts in the next issue, the new “Incoming” will be overseen by deputy managing editor James Kaminsky, part of the power-sharing trifecta of deputy managing editors that includes Will Dana and Joe Levy.
“The name appeared before and ran short features,” Mr. Kaminsky said. “We love the name, and we’re keeping it. We’re now going to focus on news and trend stories, movies, TV, books, video games, blogs and technology, sports and fine art,” he said.
“We thought there was a great opportunity to broaden our coverage without losing our focus,” Mr. Kaminsky said. “All of this stuff is coming together, and this is our chance to cover these topics.”
In November, Mr. Kaminsky jumped from Playboy to Rolling Stone, where Mr. Wenner asked him to bulk up the magazine’s pop-culture coverage. The section was scheduled to debut in the March 11 issue, but an expansive tribute to Hunter S. Thompson bumped the release back a cycle.
“This section is one of the main things I was charged to oversee. We cover so many things so well, and we didn’t want certain topics falling through the cracks,” Mr. Kaminsky said. The section will be written by both staff and freelance contributors, and include a mixture of blurbs and short pieces up to 800 words.
“While we’re not a daily or a weekly, the goal is to jump on a story and break some news here,” Mr. Kaminsky said.